David Cox lecture at California College of Art April 16th 2007
Notes from the talk:
Decrypting the Present with Digital Media Tools and Ideas
‘buried within the message is the means to decode it’
Jody Foster’s Character in “CONTACT”
Our Digital Present
Our culture is characterized by:
1) Incessant technological renewal.
2) Integration of state and economy.
3) Generalized Secrecy.
4) Unanswerable Lies.
5) An eternal present.
In a post-industrial society, every citizen can construct her own custom lifestyle and “select”her ideology from a large (but not infinite) number of choices. The market now tries to target each individual separately, rather than everyone sharing the same mass-produced products and beliefs as
was the dominant notion behind the modernizing industrial society.
Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media
Visualization and projections are about
externalizing the view of the world from the point of view of the powerful.
Illusionist uses for cinema reflect a capitalist preoccupation with keeping the population occupied, bored.
History of computers reflects rise of need to manage & control space and calculate artillery - e.g. SAGE
Code breaking - abstractions mathematically relating to information at-a-distance
Arpanet and the Internet reflect attempts to get different machines to talk to each other - agenda was sharing of information at a distance
Internet is a ‘distributed database’ using packet switching
Cinema samples time and presents a sequential series of pictures as visual evidence of events
Computers transcode the world through calculation
Computers are shrinking - wearable computers now possible - cell-phones are examples of wearable computers whose use is inseparable from daily life.
People now routinely film, photograph, record and playback audio visual events and send/receive them via networks.
There is a language of new media but not so much one of distributed, locative audiovisual media
Tendency to extrapolate out from already existing archival media - to add a dimension that was not there before
E.g. “Hitler’s Private Life” where Automatic Lip reading software has made previously unheard voices ‘heard’
Also JFK assassination simulation - both for TV ‘evidence’ and for entertainment
Here 3D projection is used to augment already well known archival material to create navigable, cartographic representations which supposedly add new things to the old footage
2d & 3d overlaps are part of a broader cultural movement in which space, urban, local, personal is part of the equation when it comes to a reappraisal of memory
We remember places, people and events as complete spaces of memory
Incorporation of ‘the virtual camera’ into gaming. In gaming, cinematic perception functions as the subject in its own right, making conventional points of view part of film language. There is a kind of resonance with the “New Vision Movement” ofthe 1920’s, Laslo Moholy Nagy, Dziga Vertov
The S.I. called them “ambient unities” - places which seem to hold an attraction or pull based on how occupying them defies the boredom set aside for people as part of spectacular life.
Pierro Della Francesca was able to ‘ray trace’ heads by using mathematics in ways which are normally done with 3D software
3D projection is a post-Renaissance notion - linked to illusion, mastery and dominance of space.
Manovich talks about “Potemkin’s villages” used to fool countess who was spared the view of actual poverty.
Makes the link with contemporary hollywood cinema - illusion is part of masking the reality of a ‘poor’ life
This is in contrast to constructivist ideas which saught to lay bare the workings of the technology of cinema for example and link this to everyday life of people in Russia - there was no separation between cinema and life and revolution.
Small screens and portable storage media are making new relationships possible between audio visual information, where a viewer is and how they make use of their information.
Any recorded sequence creates a simultaneous and parallel record of the exact GPS location where it was shot, which is fixed on the screen.
An open source distributed database of movies is emerging but it is still linked to mainstream commercial culture
It does not yet float freely of its tethers to commercialisation
Steve Mann and his students challenge the relationship of the camera to power
“Shooting back” - using camcorders wearables to challenge the one-way gaze of in-store security cameras
Recursion and the ability of digital culture to create new patterns of knowledge
CONTACT movie - ‘the ways to decode the message are hidden within it’
Digital compositing is usually used to create seamless virtual spaces but this does not have to be its only goal. Borders between different spaces do not have to be erased. Spaces do not have to be matched in scale, perspective, lighting. Individual layers can retain their own identities. Different worlds can clash semantically rather than form a single or even cohesive universe.
6. The cameraperson “penetrates deeply into [reality’s] web”. (Walter Benjamin) The camera has a new mobility, celebrated in Man with the Movie Camera. It can go anywhere and see anything and obtain any close-up.
(Medical, anthropological, surveyor’s technology contribute to this advancement – “motion pictures”)
7. Mass society demands a universal equality of things. When images are brought together into a single place the scale and unique location of each object is discarded.
16. Loops: gave birth to the cinema and also to computer programming which involves altering the linear flow of data through controlled structures. The loop is the elemental form of these controls.
The loop and the sequential progression are not mutually exclusive.
A computer program progresses start to end by executing a series of loops.
Database VS Narrative
Portability and the Management of Resources
Gameboy was portable, let the user engage in games while out in the city.
Today PSP, ipods, cellphones etc have universalized the experience of the portable entertainment/communications device.
Few have thought about the types of relationships people will have to screen information - small screen, big screen etc